Economics has been called the “dismal science” by many people for many reasons. Personally, I’d like to think that it’s because, when employed properly, it reveals the aspects of human behavior very few people want exposed. One of the fundamental and simple principles of economics is that scarce goods are more highly valued and plentiful ones are less valued, and certainly human history continually shows that.

In fact, in that vein, if one applies basic economic principles to religion, the inescapable conclusion is that the wealthy and the privileged benefit disproportionately from religions and cultures that encourage the less fortunate to have lots of offspring.

Am I crazy in saying that? Or anti-religion? Hardly. It’s just the dismal science revealing what too many religions won’t or can’t admit. A few lessons from history might be instructive. After the Black Death ravaged Europe in the 14th century, killing well over a third of the population and possibly as much as sixty percent in some areas, a strange thing happened. Over the following centuries, life got a whole lot better for the working classes. Why? Because there was a shortage of labor, and even laborers became better paid. The higher cost of labor eventually led to the development of more innovations that were labor-saving and resulted in higher productivity and less brute manual work.

While China also suffered from the Black Death, the majority of the deaths were in the west of China, in the area dominated by the Mongols, as well as across the steppes, where in some areas as much as seventy percent of the population perished. This led to the collapse of Mongol rule, and the return to more traditional Chinese social and class structures… and continued reliance on a great deal of low-paid labor, of which there continued to be a great numbers… and no real incentive for the upper classes to build on the innovations that China developed centuries before the west, such as blast furnaces, gun-powder, and ocean trading.

Why did so many immigrants flee Europe for the United States? The ostensible and often-given answer is “for a better life.” But behind that answer lies economics – the fact that there was a shortage of labor in the United States, enough of a shortage that even unskilled workers could do better here than elsewhere.

Areas with high birthrates generally have lower living standards and an aristocracy of sorts that continues to live well and pay labor poorly. They’re generally also areas where women have fewer real rights and opportunities. There may be exceptions, but they’re very few and don’t last long. In such lands, the poor need to have large families just to survive, and the great numbers of the poor insure that wages for the poor remain low. With low wages, education is hard to come by, and that means only a small percentage of the poor ever rises above poverty. It also means that there are plenty of cheap servants, and most services are inexpensive.

When anyone talks about “right-to-life,” they’re really talking about a very selective “right.” They’re talking about the right to be born. The problem here is that these people’s “right-to-life” doesn’t extend to the right to live a decent life, and the higher the birth rate in any area, the more depressed wages tend to be and the fewer opportunities available to women.

So the “sacred” right-to-life really means that whatever divine being is behind it essentially supports misery and oppression. That’s sacred?

6 thoughts on “Right-to-Live?”

  1. R. Hamilton. says:

    Nobody should conceive a child they can’t support. That means poor people should be celibate, or sterilized (reversibly, but only if they can afford to have it reversed without receiving assistance).

    The notion that sex is cheap entertainment is, to put it mildly, utterly irresponsible and inaccurate.

  2. Conrad says:

    Misguided and utterly wrong even historically post

    without the sacred right to life, euthanasia (first voluntary and then forced, direct or indirect) of people who are considered “unproductive” follows as shown repeatedly throughout history (see the Roman treatment of slaves, the Nazi treatment of the sick and more recently my personal experience in my youth when I lived under a communist regime where when you called the ambulance, they asked for the age of the patient and they simply wouldn’t come if the age was higher than 65); note that all these examples were not particularly religious in the sense of your post (the Nazis were violently anti-Christian while the regime I lived in was nominally atheist) and they all encouraged the “right” people to have lots of children to increase their population (see the Augustan decrees, the Nazi famous directives of Aryan women making babies or the complete interdiction of contraceptives and abortions and the strict registration of any pregnant woman showing for treatment in the country I am talking about in the 1970-80’s E. Europe

    Sorry, history doesn’t really sustain your point and again while obviously abused on occasion (like everything – and the present abortion debates in the US show the public accepting them up to a point but being utterly horrified by killing babies or selling fetal parts), the right to life of a human is crucial for a moral society irrespective of religion and the ones using economics to justify killings of “unproductive” people, selective abortions (directly or indirectly) turned out generally to be monsters (it’s going to be quite interesting to see what will happen with a few tens of millions young men who cannot find mates in China due to their one child policy and abortion of female embryos)

    1. Your reply actually supports my post. You obviously don’t quite understand economics. Slaves are cheap labor, either made possible by military conquest or by too many children being born to the poor and disadvantaged, supporting the affluent. Both the Communists and the Nazis could afford to kill or let die those who weren’t “productive” or acceptable because there were plenty of other sources of cheap labor available, especially in Nazi Germany in the middle of the Great Depression. And those tens of millions of young men without mates make wonderful cannon fodder, or Jihadist terrorists, because the excess of poor males means the uneducated have little or no value to those running those countries.

      Also, I’m not using economics to justify or oppose abortion. I am pointing out the results of what happens when the poorest segments of society have more children than they can feed and educate, as well as the hypocrisy of “moral people” who preach about the “right” of a child to be born, but who then deny that the society has any responsibility to care for that child when the parent/s are unable to do so. That, in case you didn’t get it, was the point of the title. Without a “right to live” a basic decent life, the “right-to-life” is hypocritical moralizing.

  3. Joe says:

    Economics is the ‘dismal science’ because it cannot be falsified. I.e. it is not a science, but merely various people’s ideologies dressed up in mathematics. It gives itself cachet claiming to be a science, but that is only cargo-cultism.

    Ever wondered why there are 2 departments in Universities, one for economics, and one for businesses? It’s because one teaches the orthodoxy du jour, and the other teaches an approximation of the economy actually works.

    Still, I agree with the proposition that more people means that people aren’t valued as much. Still, this may not last: our ridiculous population growth stems from fossil fuel usage. That should decline due to either climate change (food can’t grow due to extreme weather), or peak oil, and the population is likely to fall with it.

  4. Daze says:

    Off-topic (a bit). Just finished reading Solar Express. Brilliant! Thanks again to LEM for all the entertainment (and thought provocation from Exton Land) over the years.

  5. D Archerd says:

    I can’t properly attribute the following, but will disclaim originality:

    o Economics rests on three principles: You can’t get something for nothing; there’s no such thing as a free lunch; and when supply and demand can’t be balanced by price adjustments, you get shortages.

    o Politics is the art of denying these principles

    o Government economic policy is the practice of implementing these denials until the whole system collapses, at which time appropriate villains are chosen to blame.

    o Business consists of seeking profits in a market distorted by government economic policy without becoming a designated villain.

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